Michigan Association of School Administrators

Service | Leadership | Collaboration | Excellence

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Paw Paw
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview
Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift, Ann Arbor

MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

Life in a Kindergarten Classroom

Written by David Britton on Apr 29, 2016
So today, I had my first-ever experience substituting in a kindergarten classroom. It wasn't planned, but maybe it was.

Yesterday, I noticed that I didn't have anything on my calendar for today so I thought a Friday off to do nothing might be in the works. I have some vacation and personal leave time available so why not? But last night I began to waffle and decided to set my alarm as normal and see what the morning brings. Alarm went off, I got up, showered, downed my usual coffee and off to work I went. But decided to make it one of my occasional (not enough) "No Office Days" and spend the entire day in our schools.

First stop, the Early Childhood Center about a half hour before the start of the school day. And before I knew it, I was subbing in a kindergarten classroom because the scheduled substitute decided to turn down the assignment. And also, because the look on the principal's face was one of desperation. Certainly can't blame him.

So off I went to fill in for Ms. Swem and meet my 27 (only twenty-five were present) darling 5 and 6 year-olds.

What a ride! The teacher had great, detailed sub plans but pacing the day was a struggle from the start given that I lacked any recent classroom experience and never filled in for a kindergarten teacher. But the career Army in me kicked in and decided come hell or high-water, the mission will be accomplished.

Then the kids showed up, and I learned a whole lot of new lessons.

But we made it. As a team. Well, sometimes as a team.

Well, actually we were never really a team, but for one day it didn't matter. I think we enjoyed each other's company and learned a lot about each other's world.

Yes, there were challenges most of which I still believe are the result of our penchant for pushing academic learning down to the earliest grades at the expense of socialization and school-readiness, but that's for another blog post another time.

As for today, every superintendent that hasn't needs to spend at least a day like I did. Your empathy for both the kids and the teachers will grow a thousand-fold.

I think fate decided I didn't need the day off and I'm glad it didn't.

Enjoy your weekend. I certainly will.

Special Education Millage Proposal May 3rd

Written by Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift on Apr 29, 2016

This coming Tuesday, May 3rd, we have a wonderful opportunity to come together as a community to vote on a Special Education Millage Proposal that will strengthen the Ann Arbor Public Schools. 

This vote presents a rare opportunity to exercise our own local control, and to generate funds that will remain right here, within our area, directly benefitting our own children, schools, and community.

Full information on this proposal is posted at a2schools.org and here is a link to a brief informational video message.

Strong communities consistently engage in supporting and ensuring quality public schools and we are most grateful for the long tradition of support from our Ann Arbor Public Schools community. 

I know that we are proud of our amazing students, our wonderful staff, schools, and quality programs, and we understand they are a direct reflection of our vibrant and successful Ann Arbor community.

Thank you for your support of the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Please join me on Tuesday, May 3rd in voting YES in support of our children.


Jeanice K Swift 

Do we expect more from technology and less from each other?

Written by Steve Matthews on Apr 29, 2016
Sherry Turkle gave an interesting TED talk in 2012 about the rise of technology and the fall of human connectedness. It is worth 19 minutes of your time.

In the talk, Ms. Turkle states that technology provides "the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship."

Friendship is messy. It requires time. There is a give and take. Through friendship we will experience deep grief and profound joy. But these emotions demand an investment of ourselves in the lives of our friends.

Sometimes it is just easier to text our friend. That way we give the illusion that we want to share in their grief or joy without actually having to get messy and caught up in this complicated thing called life. Instead of investing we "dabble" in the conversation.

As I listened to this TED talk I thought about how some people tend to place their trust in technology to solve the problems of education. Give every kid a laptop. Let them learn at their own pace.

To me this provides the illusion of learning without the demands of thinking.

Learning is messy. Learning requires time. Learning requires the guidance of a great teacher who can moderate the give and take that is required to learn. 

Learning is more than knowing facts and figures. Learning is figuring out how to think, how to reason, how to understand how things fit together. That requires that we develop the capacity to reflect and understand another perspective and see how that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

Technology is a great tool. Technology provides access to information. Technology provides access to networks of people that previously had been unavailable. Technology creates wonderful opportunities for learning.

But technology does not guarantee that you will learn. Students need teachers to help moderate and navigate the complexities inherent in learning.

At times technology appears to be a better answer to learning that our standard and common classrooms. That happens when teachers do not take the time to create engaging, meaningful, and powerful classrooms environments that call for the best from students. At times teachers and students tacitly agree that they will not push each other. Teachers and students agree that they will coast.

But just because that happens does not mean that is the way it is supposed to be or the way that it should be. Great teachers create classrooms that push students to learn, engage them in meaningful and purposeful reflection, and demand thinking.

Great teachers care for their students in ways that technology cannot. Technology can be a tool. But technology can never replace the wonderfully engaging classrooms that passionate teachers create.

Celebrating Administrative Professionals

Written by Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift on Apr 27, 2016

I hope that you are well on this April Wednesday. Today, April 27, we celebrate Administrative Professionals Day.  

Please join me in recognizing and thanking our Office Professionals for their valuable contributions to our AAPS team.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Office Professionals are valuable members of our educational family, contributing a great deal to our district with their dedication and conscientious service to our school community.  They, as a group, provide a strong foundation for the smooth operation of our offices and schools. 

Our Office Professionals have the challenging task of being our front of the house public relations ambassadors as well as the behind-the-scenes support for completing the numerous daily tasks that are crucial to a well functioning organization. 

Their wealth of knowledge, keen awareness of procedure, and the 'extra step' our OPs take to show care in the workplace ensures that our offices and buildings operate efficiently; they make all the difference between chaos and calm during the daily 'emergencies' of school life. They are often the first individuals that our visitors see when arriving at our campuses and it is their smile and warmth that ensure all feel welcomed and supported when visiting the AAPS.   

Please join me in recognizing the vital role our Office Professionals play in our district and in extending appreciation to them, not just on this day -- but throughout the year.

Thank you, Ann Arbor Public Schools Office Professionals, for all you do, every day, for our students, their families, your colleagues and our community; you are tremendously appreciated.


Best wishes,

Jeanice Swift

Distracting ourselves to death

Written by Steve Matthews on Apr 19, 2016
A random tweet on a random Tuesday makes me think that we pay too much attention to "what" we are teaching and not enough attention to "why" we are teaching.

While content is clearly important, perhaps more important is why we want students to learn the content in the first place. Whether it is the Common Core, the Michigan Grade Level Content Standards, or the High School Content Standards, I would hope that we would agree that content for content's sake is relatively unimportant.

Google has content. People have context, nuance, understanding.

Google has content. People make sense.

What is clearly more important that making sure our students "know" the content is ensuring that our students have the ability to think, to listen, to reason, to communicate, to create.

Instead of arguing about "just" the content, I want us to make sure students know why they are learning.